Court Says States Can't Bar Some Rights Suits

May 26, 2009 - 12:21 PM
The Supreme Court has ruled that states may not prevent people from filing civil rights claims against government workers in state courts.
Washington (AP) - The Supreme Court has ruled that states may not prevent people from filing civil rights claims against government workers in state courts.
 
The court, by a 5-4 vote Tuesday, said people have a choice whether to file their claims in federal or state courts. Filing fees are cheaper and courthouses often are closer in the state system, potentially important factors for prison inmates and the poor.
 
Justice John Paul Stevens said in his majority opinion that a New York appeals court was wrong to throw out a lawsuit filed by state prison inmate Keith Haywood. Liberal Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter, and conservative-leaning Justice Anthony Kennedy joined the majority opinion.
 
The court's four conservatives, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, dissented.
 
Haywood is an inmate at the state prison at Attica in New York. He sued state Department of Corrections employees for alleged violations of his civil rights. New York courts dismissed his complaints, saying they lack jurisdiction to decide complaints against corrections officers.
 
The case is Haywood v. Drown, 07-10374.